Spring is not only the best time of the year for anything outdoors, but it is also one of the most important sowing seasons for all farms. On the 20th of May, a group of around 50 students from Shanghai United International School (SUIS), Jiaoke campus decide to do both – go out on a field trip to reconnect with nature and spend a day on an organic farm, planting veggies and learning about how our food is grown. They visited a farm in Cenbu village in the outskirts of Shanghai, close to Dianshan Lake in Qingpu district.
Why Natural Farming
Our current agricultural system prevails on the usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in order to increase yields and keep crops free from rodents and insects. However, this form of agriculture is extremely damaging to the local ecosystem, the soil, and the surrounding water sources. Dianshan Lake is one of Shanghai’s most important drinking water sources. Hence protecting this area from any form of chemical pollution is absolutely essential.
How To Practice Natural Farming
The basic principle of natural farming is to grow crops and vegetable using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides and ensure use of only natural biological materials like compost. This is done by planting seeds according to their seasonality, focusing on biodiversity, rotating crops, rotational grazing, avoiding excessive tilling of the land and other actions that maintain and enhance an ecological balance.
The major difference between ‘Natural’ and ‘Organic’ farming is that organic farms must be certified by a local government agency for their produce to be labeled as organic, while natural farms still follow the principle of organic farming but do not possess any certification. This makes produce from natural farms more affordable than certified organic products.
SUIS’s Farm Tour and Activities
The student group from SUIS spent an entire day on the farm in Cenbu village, learning about some of these concepts of natural farming and about agriculture in general. They spent the first half of the day touring the farm and learning about the different herbs and vegetables grown.
The group was split into smaller groups and each one was given a task to identify as many plants as possible by studying their leaves and growing pattern. City dwellers are so used to seeing vegetables directly delivered to their dining tables, that they never stop to think about what the actual plant would look like - whether the vegetable grows under the soil, on a creeper, just above the ground or in a pool of water.
They then moved on to the rabbit area to feed the cute furry bunnies and also learn about how these farm animals are an integral part of natural farming. The rabbits eat all organic waste generated by the farm and then convert them into really good natural fertilizer.
A farm visit can never be complete without relishing the locally grown fresh vegetables and other farm produce. The group were treated to a delicious vegetarian lunch cooked by the local village residents, with all the ingredients being sourced from different farms from with the village. A true and complete farm to table experience.
The afternoon session involved sticking their fingers into the soil and carrying out some actual farm work. Using some light hand tools, the students scooped out small mounds of soil, added organic fertilizer and planted various saplings of sweet potatoes, taro and some other vegetables.
Another group of students helped build a frame using natural materials for growing creeper vegetables like beans. They also harvested onions, potatoes and some other fresh leafy vegetables which they took home to relish the fruits of their hard work.
After a fulfilling day of learning, doing and experiencing; the group of students and teachers went home with a fresh perspective on the source of their food.
For future enquiries on team building activities or farm visits please get in touch with Green Initiatives, at firstname.lastname@example.org .